Staff Writer

Liberty-Benton is on track to occupy new and renovated buildings in the fall of 2022, Superintendent Mark Kowalski said Tuesday at his “state of the schools” presentation.

School district voters approved a 35-year, 7.3-mill bond issue in May, which will pay for Liberty-Benton’s share of a new pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade building, a new auditorium and renovations to the high school.

The state is paying for 57 percent of much of the $46.7 million project, though some parts, such as the auditorium, must be fully funded locally. That funding should be released by the state shortly after Nov. 18, Kowalski said.

Additional planning for the project has been “on hold,” since the money hasn’t been released yet, he said.

“I just want to say it’s frustrating to wait five months, but it’s well worth it for the 57 percent and the amount of money that they’re doing,” Kowalski said. “We have done and accomplished the most difficult task, and that was securing our local funds by passing the bond in May.”

The next ballot issue for Liberty-Benton voters is an income tax up for renewal for 10 years in November.

First passed in 1994, the 0.75 percent tax generates about $1.9 million per year, or about 13 percent of the district’s budget, Kowalski said. The tax funds “day-to-day operations” including staff, technology, utilities, classroom supplies, maintenance and repairs.

He noted the district has not had deficit spending since 2009, even as enrollment increased.

If the income tax isn’t renewed, projections show deficit spending of about $378,000 in fiscal year 2021.

Kowalski also shared student and district achievements in various areas. Among them:

• The class of 2019 earned more than $1.5 million in scholarships, and 87 percent of the graduates are attending universities.

• The district has 275 students participating in athletics this fall, including 106 in middle school. At the high school level, the boys golf, girls soccer and volleyball teams are conference champions.

• The marching band has 66 members, and 417 students participate in choir. Together, the groups have 48 music performances scheduled for this school year. “Money well spent, on that performance auditorium,” Kowalski said.

• The district earned an overall B grade on the most recent report card from the Ohio Department of Education, putting Liberty-Benton in the top one-fifth of districts statewide.

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